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Micron Technology

Micron Technology, Inc., is one of the world's leading providers of advanced semiconductor solutions. Through its worldwide operations, Micron manufactures and markets DRAM, NAND flash memory, CMOS image sensors, other semiconductor components, and memory modules for use in leading-edge computing, consumer, networking, and mobile products.
.. Micron logo - click for more info

see also:- Micron - editor mentions on StorageSearch.com and Micron's SSD page

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Editor:- January 31, 2014 - Micron was ranked #13 in the Q4 2013 edition of the Top SSD Companies List which is researched and published by StorageSearch.com
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Who's who in SSD? - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - February 2014

In the quarter ended November 28, 2013 - Micron said that about 50% of its nand flash memory bits went into SSDs.

Micron also reported significant growth in its server RAM business in this quarter.

However, in the next few years I think it's likely that this server DRAM business will be impacted by the growing adoption of server based flash - initially by PCIe SSDs (a market in which Micron itself participates directly) and later to a growing extent by memory channel flash SSDs in the form represented by flash DIMMs from competitor SanDisk.

The general effect of server based flash on server DRAM is to reduce the number of servers required to service like for like apps and users. (SSD-CPU equivalence)

In the past few years, however, the RAM impact of this transition has mostly been to move more RAM into fewer servers.

In the next few years, however, flash SSDs may also begin to replace a proportion of memory capacity which was previously done by DRAM.

Micron doesn't currently have a low latency, high capacity, flash DIMM SSD technology platform in its product line. But I think it's inevitable that Micron will - at some stage in 2014 or 2015 - have to publicly address this product gap / opportunity / threat to maintain confidence in its server customer base.

Possible ways of doing this are:-
  • ammending the Hybrid Memory Cube architecture to support internal flash controllers (a possibility I wrote about back in 2011)
  • licensing or acquiring a similar flash DIMM interface controller technology.
  • developing something similar internally
  • launching patent lawsuits to slow down competitors
Clearing the patent and IP decks in readiness for the above options for that may have been one of the factors in the December 2013 patent deal with Rambus.

In a related conference call - Satish Rishi, CFO - Rambus said "we haven’t licensed the entire controller space... besides DRAM, and on that side of the industry, we’re looking to have more licensees... ...Today most of our patents do not read on the interfaces for non-volatile memory... But over time, I think that’s going to change and we expect that some of the novel technologies in the non-volatile space as the speeds get higher will probably adopt the type of interfaces that the DRAM industry has used. So we have a lot of upside potential." (...read transcript)

My guess is that - Micron will be conflicted about investing too much, too soon in memory channel SSDs for the same reasons that hard drive vendors originally ignored SSDs.

In the present state of the SSD market - Micron may regard the short term market opportunity of memory channel SSD as - being small compared to something they already do (PCIe SSDs) and - in the long term - as damaging to their DRAM revenue if it succeeeds.


re Micron and SSDs - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - January 2013

Overriding all previous faltering (and sometimes misdirected) steps taken by Micron in the SSD market in recent years - the company's 2 biggest legacy achievements in the SSD market upto now were clearly revealed in 2012. They were:-
  • revealing that 1/3 of Micron's nand flash trade sales go into SSDs.

    From my point of view - having discussed this type of transition with many of the world's leading memory companies years ago when SSDs were under 1% of their customer sales and not even in their business radar - it's hard to state how significant this is.

    Some other ways you can look at it are...

    Current worldwide memory fab capacity can easily support 3x the SSD volume and probably 10x the annual SSD capacity using already started manufacturing processes.

    Owning SSD brands is now an essential part of forward integration for managing a successful memory business.

    Memory businesses will not be able to survive profitably without strongly estalished and tied SSD routes to market.

    That's because customers want SSDs - not memory. And because SSD makers can switch memory suppliers more easily than server and PC makers could switch them - the position of being outside the SSD box as a commodity supplier of memory isn't attractive.

    See also:- Memory Channel Storage SSDs - will the new concept fly?
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Who's who in SSD? - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - June 2012

Micron sampled its 1st SSD products in early 2008 and made its first appearance in the Top 20 SSD Companies list in Q3 2010. But the company dropped out of the list again in the most recent edition of the top SSD companies (Q1 2012).

I spoke to Ed Doller, VP of Enterprise SSD Solutions recently to discuss their enterprise SSD products.

I had been following up a chain of SSD contacts within the company - and I was looking forward to finally getting some useful information about their enterprise SSDs.

I started by saying that I was surprised that the information which is publicly available on Micron's enterprise SSD web pages - lacks the essential data that any serious designer would need to know in order to decide whether to shortlist Micron as a possible supplier.

At the time I looked (in May 2012) the PCIe SSD product datasheets - for example - didn't say anything at all about the internal architecture - and they were light on many performance details too. I wondered if I had been looking in the right places. To me Micron's enterprise SSD web pages gave me a message of product intentions rather than products which were in production and had been fully characterized.

It wasn't me. I learned that's just the way they do things.

Ed Doller said that the company doesn't supply the kind of detailed internal architecture information I was asking for unless they are talking directly to a potential customer which they have identified by their sales efforts and even in those cases the prospects (mostly in the top tier of computer oems) would need to sign an NDA first.

I said Micron's approach - witholding even the most basic technical info - showed me that Micron doesn't know how to market enterprise SSDs and that unless Micron changes the way they presented their SSD info online they would miss out on a big chunk of the enterprise market.

I said my readers include the biggest buyers and specifiers of SSDs and that with so many vendors in the enterprise SSD market - the designers tend to shortlist suppliers from what they see online - because they don't have time to talk to everyone or test more than a small number of different products.

Neither Micron nor anyone else can compile a list of who the biggest SSD users are based on traditional sales data. Because there are many companies which will be huge consumers of enterprise SSDs in the online data economy which fall outside the traditional prospects lists. These SSD users will make the first moves to choose their SSD partners - not the other way around.

I said it's a valid business decision to do business the way Micron was doing it. But to my way of thinking marketing enterprise SSDs the same way as commodity memory products - wasn't the way to maximize their business potential.

One of these days I will have to read some blogs about diplomacy. I thought we weren't getting anywhere but Ed Doller did confirm that they have designed their own SSD controller architecture for use in their enterprise SSDs. And to me - it's a safe inference is that they are also in the DSP IP in SSD pack too.

That means Micron is a more significant SSD IP company than you would think simply by looking at the null data content in their SSD web pages.

If you're thinking of designing in Micron's enterprise SSDs - I would say - don't waste too much of your time visiting Micron's web site - because you won't learn anything useful there. They don't have a scalable online process of disseminating the information you need. You'll need to talk to a real person in their SSD business - and then wait weeks or months - depending how busy they are - to talk to a product specialist who can answer the type of detailed technical questions - which real enterprise SSD companies put in their public web pages. (I'm still waiting to get my questions answered - and when I hear I'll let you know.)

But to get the balance right Micron isn't the only semiconductor company which doesn't know how to market systems products. That kind of thinking is built into the DNA of many chip makers.

These antiquated oem component oriented ways of developing business worked well in the past - but the SSD market isn't like the PC or server market. One of the interesting things about the SSD market is how the memory makers, and the traditional storage companies have very different approaches to each other and also to the pure play SSD companies. There's no right and wrong way. It's whatever gets the business to the next level. But if you're selecting an SSD supplier - then these differences in thinking and doing business and risk management can be more important than the exact specs and prices of the products.

Another positive thing about Micron - is thatall the SSD people I spoke to were very enthusiastic about the enterprise SSD market and optimistic about the advantages Micron had in the SSD business - by being part of a memory company.

They were surprised but not at all offended when I said that it was only an advantage if everything worked out right - but that the advantage of not being tied to a particular memory supplier for designers in competing SSD companies was that they could go with whichever memory product looked best at the time.

I think we'll be hearing a lot more from Micron - but other enterprise PCIe SSD makers won't be putting them at the top of their list of competitors to worry about just yet.

For competing SSD suppliers see these directories:- PCIe SSDs, 2.5" SSDs and SATA SSDs.

Micron recently acquired the assets of UK based Virtensys which marketed rackmount SSDs stuffed with Micron's PCIe SSDs with a patented multi-server sharing virtualization interface.

The leading companies in the enterprise acceleration PCIe SSD market which Micron has to compete with are:- Fusion-io, Texas Memory Systems, OCZ and Virident Systems.

And in the next level down are:- STEC and LSI and then another 40 or so other companies. It's a crowded market - but there's a lot to play for.

Micron is also in the consumer SSD market. I told Micron's SSD marketers right at the outset of our talks that I wasn't interested in discussing that aspect of their business because StorageSearch.com isn't a consumer facing SSD site.

...Later:- in an interview with another PCIe SSD company (July 24, 2012) I was asked -

what do I think will happen to the PCIe SSD market?

Will it eventually be dominated by the semiconductor companies? like Micron and Intel - To find out what I said - ...read the article
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Micron mentions from SSD Market History

In April 2008 - Micron and Nanya Technology announced they were each investing $550 million in cash in a new joint venture.

In November 2008 - Micron demonstrated prototypes of fast PCIe flash SSDs with 800MB/s throughput, and hinted that 1GB/s SSDs could be available soon. The performance itself (for a prototype) is unremarkable - because 3 other oems already ship flash SSDs with similar (or faster) performance as commercial products. Z's Laws - Predicting Future Flash SSD Performance

In February 2009 - Micron announced restructuring plans will reduce employment at their Idaho sites by approximately 500 employees in the near term and as many as 2,000 positions by the end of the company's fiscal year.

In July 2009 - IDT announced it was working with Micron to develop a commercial PCIe flash SSD for the server market. Micron had previously tested market reaction by unveiling a prototype PCIe SSD (with 800MB/s R/W speeds) in November 2008.

In December 2009 - Micron announced it is sampling 6Gbps SATA MLC SSDs in 1.8" and 2.5" form factors.

Micron's C300 SSD can achieve a read throughput speed of up to 355MB/s and a write throughput up to 215MB/s.

Editor's comments:- Long anticipated in StorageSearch.com's flash SSD Roadmap - it was inevitable that we would be seeing 6Gbps SATA SSDs soon, because several companies have already sampled 6Gbps SAS SSDs which use the same physical interface. It was simply a question of when vendors would judge the market conditions right.

In February 2010 -Micron announced an agreement to acquire privately held Numonyx in an all-stock transaction worth approximately $1.3 billion.

This strengthens Micron's position as one of the world's leading memory companies, with a broad portfolio of DRAM, NAND and NOR memory products.

Analyst comment:- from Objective Analysis - "By acquiring Numonyx, Micron is buying the current leader in the NOR flash market - which has been a difficult one for nearly all participants. Leaders Numonyx and Spansion have suffered losses for several years, with Spansion recently turning a profit through a strategy largely focused upon markets for low-density parts used by markets outside of cell handsets, the largest consumer of NOR flash. Micron itself participated in NOR starting in the late 1990s, but abandoned this effort in 2006."

In August 2010 - Micron Technology announced it is sampling the RealSSD P300 - a 200GB 2.5" SATA 3 SLC flash SSD with R/W IOPS of 44,000 and 16,000 respectively.

Micron's new P300 SSD sounds almost exactly the same as the C300 SSD the company said it was sampling in December 2009. The main differences are:- the newer product has lower R/W IOPS, and is SLC instead of MLC - which is better for most mission critical apps.

In June , 2011 - 30 months after pre-announcing its intentions to enter the PCIe SSD accelerator market - Micron today announced it is sampling the first products in a new family which will ship in the 3rd quarter of this year.

The company says its RealSSD P320h drive delivers upto 750K / 341K R/W IOPS, and 3GB/s / 2GB/s R/W throughput. It uses Micron's own 34nm SLC ONFI 2.1 NAND flash and has on-board RAM cache. Micron says it manufactures most of the chips used in the new cards a customized SSD controller.

In January 2012 - Micron announced it has acquired the assets UK based Virtensys which marketed rackmount SSDs stuffed with Micron's PCIe SSDs and supported by a patented multi-server sharing virtualization interface.

In January 2013 - Micron disclosed that in the past quarter SSDs had become 17% of Micron's nand business and the company estimates that 35% of the nand flash it supplies to trade customers end up in SSDs.
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world's first PCIe PCM SSD
Editor:- June 14, 2011 - NVSL ( the Non-Volatile Systems Lab at UCSD) recently demonstrated a prototype PCIe PCM (phase-change memory) SSD - with R/W speeds upto 1.1GB/s and 327MB/s respectively and 8GB usable capacity.

A spokesperson for the Moneta SSD design team - Professor Steven Swanson said "...Moneta gives us a window into the future of what computer storage systems are going to look like, and gives us the opportunity now to rethink how we design computer systems in response."

Swanson says he hopes to build the 2nd generation of the Moneta storage device in the next 6 to 9 months and says the technology could be ready for market in just a few years as the underlying phase-change memory technology improves.

Editor's comments:- in a white paper Protoype PCM Storage Array (pdf) the team outlines the design and architecture of their PCM SSD prototype (which uses memory from Micron) and also compares aspects of performance with entry level PCIe flash SSDs from Fusion-io. In a recent article I warned that you should not pay too much heed to comparative PCIe SSD benchmarks - because from different arbitrary selected angles they can "prove" different arbitrary performance rankings. I wouldn't be surprised if some investors take fright that a PCM SSD scored higher than a Fusion-io SSD in some of the published graphs. But for those who understand SSD architecture it doesn't reveal anything new.

In my view this prototype clearly demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of PCM as an SSD technology.

PCM SSD strengths vs flash

The granularity of writes in PCM is smaller and faster - which means that small R/W operations have higher IOPS. If you have apps where that is important you can simply buy SSDs with various ratios of integrated RAM cache. That would give you small block IOPS better than PCM - end of story. PCM has higher endurance than SLC - which means that the SSD controller overhead applied to endurance can be lighter than in most flash systems. Hence potentially faster latency through to the media.

PCM SSD weaknesses vs flash

The prototype PCIe SSD card provides capacity which is similar to RAM SSD density - but with a large block R/W throughput which is much lower than flash arrays. This implementation used 16MB PCM chips.

Flash allows higher capacity writes to a single chip - and this gives better peak performance results than PCM when exploited in parallel architecture arrays. You can't get those flash peak performance numbers from a PCM array in the same board footrpint - because many PCM chips have to be written to concurrently to achieve the same capacity R/W as a single flash chip. That means with today's technologies - flash SSDs have a higher proportion of ready to write memory chips in the same chip count population as PCM SSDs.
SSD past phantom demons image - click to read the article For more about alternative SSD memory technologies - see SSD's past phantoms.
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Micron samples its first real PCIe SSD
Editor:- June 2, 2011 - 30 months after pre-announcing its intentions to enter the PCIe SSD accelerator market - Micron today announced it is sampling the first products in a new family which will ship in the 3rd quarter of this year.

The company says its RealSSD P320h drive delivers upto 750K / 341K R/W IOPS, and 3GB/s / 2GB/s R/W throughput. It uses Micron's own 34nm SLC ONFI 2.1 NAND flash and has on-board RAM cache. Micron says it manufactures most of the chips used in the new cards a customized SSD controller.

Editor's comments:- if it lives up to its promise - this new SSD range from Micron could be among the fastest PCIe SSDs around. From the viewpoint of a semiconductor memory maker - PCIe SSDs are attractive because they have high added value. That's the theory. In practise - to make an enterprise SSD business work you also have to invest a lot in continuing technical design, compatibility testing, customer support and marketing.
pcie  SSDs - click to read article The true test of Micron's new product therefore is not so much what it's like when it ships to users at the end of this year - but whether Micron decides to stay the course 2 to 3 years down the road.
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more articles on StorageSearch.com
the Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs

what do enterprise SSD users want? - and why aren't vendors asking.

how fast can your SSD run backwards? - 11 Key a/Symmetries in SSD design

The big market impact of SSD dark matter - As Fusion-io found out years ago, and OCZ and STEC are reportedly seeing now - some of the very biggest direct customer opportunities for SSDs aren't the big name computer and storage oems.

Where are we now with SSD software? - (And how did we get into this mess?)

adaptive R/W flash care management IP (including DSP) for SSDs - what is it? and who does it? This will be a disruptive transition.

enterprise SSDs - exploring the limits of the market in your head - is about enterprise SSD futurology.

Can you tell me the best way to SSD Street? - I'm like the Old Woman of the SSD Village who talks to everyone that passes through. No wonder I have a unique perspective. It would be strange if I didn't.

comparing the SSD market today to earlier tech disruptions - applying a sense of perspective to what's happening now with SSDs
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"McObject (whose products include in-memory database software) recently published the results of benchmarks using AGIGA Tech's NVDIMM in which they did some unthinkable things which you would never wish to try out for yourself - like rebooting the server while it was running."
SSD software news - October 9, 2013
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SSD ad - click for more info
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don't count on new DRAM technology coming soon
Editor:- August 20, 2013 - In recent years the SSD market has become nearly 100% flash (and nv memory) focused - with little or no mention of DRAM based SSDs. The reason is that nearly every company whose product line used to be mainstream RAM SSD - has pulled out of that market or discontinued enhancements to those products. Flash SSDs are more economic and easier to sell.

It doesn't mean to say that the role of DRAM in SSD systems has entirely disappeared. It still appears as a cache or tier in many flash SSD arrays and the existence of some small percentage of DRAM is assumed in SSD caching software and also in (flash based) memory channel SSDs.

Micron sent out a useful signal of where its own DRAM roadmap is going in an article yesterday in EETimes - which reports an interview with Micron's president Mark Adams who said - "There will be no new greenfield DRAM fabs for the foreseeable future. We are hitting something of a lithography wall in DRAM where shrinks are getting tougher and gains are not as attractive, so people are not as financially motivated to invest in new fabs. Also we see planar DRAM advances will end in the next 3 to 5 years, so you probably cannot get ROI in a new planar fab." ...read the article
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"Micron, Samsung and SanDisk all want to delay any investments in new flash related fabs until the new ways of doing higher density flash memory (or any viable alternatives to flash) are proven one way or the other. But in the meanwhile that begs some questions like - how many SSDs can you make from a given known quantity of flash chips?, which SSDs will sell for more? and how many of each SSD type can be sold?"
hostage to the fortunes of SSD
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Micron samples 16nm nand
Editor:- July 16, 2013 - Micron today announced it will be in full production of 16nm nand flash (128Gb MLC memory devices) in Q4 this year - and is designing SSDs around this process geometry - to ship in 2014.
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Micron turns up the heat for adoption of 2.5" PCIe SSDs.
Editor:- May 2, 2013 - Micron announced it's sampling a new model in the hot swappable 2.5" PCIe SSDs market - the P420m has upto 1.4TB MLC capacity and can deliver 750K R IOPS.

What does this mean for other types of enterprise SSD? See the analysis in SSD news.
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Fusion-io fast SSDs - click for more info
the standard for enterprise PCIe SSDs
by which all others are judged
ioDrives from Fusion-io
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We're #1 in SSD revenue - says Micron
Editor:- March 7, 2013 - Micron sees itself as the biggest SSD company - in terms of revenue, with about 6% market share in enterprise SSD - according to Kipp A. Bedard, VP Investor Relations - at a recent investors conference - transcribed in an article on SeekingAlpha.com

"In terms of SSDs, if we specifically broke out our SSD revenues, we'd probably be the largest SSD public company today. If I had to guess, were probably running on a revenue basis somewhere around 80%, 85% client, 15% to 20% enterprise"

Other interesting observations in this presentation.

"The average smartphone includes 30GB flash."

"We believe the client SSD market is growing about 20% units q-over-q." ...read the article

See also:- Can you trust SSD market data?
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Micron enters SAS SSD market
Editor:- February 26, 2013 - Micron today became the 19th company to enter the SAS SSD market.

The company today announced production of its new P410m SSD. This is (a 2.5" SSD with R/W speeds upto 410MB/s and 345MB/s respectively and 50K/30K R/W IOPS for the 400GB model which uses 25nm MLC. Endurance is 10 drive fills per day for 5 years.

Editor's comments:- Micron is currently the only company manufacturing both PCIe and SAS compatible enterprise SSDs in the 2.5" form factor.
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the 2.5" PCIe SSD guide
Aren't all PCIe SSDs very similar?
Does size matter in SSD design?
What do enterprise SSD users want?
sugaring nand flash for the enterprise
an introduction to enterprise SSD silos
How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?
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what price a terabyte?
Editor:- January 10, 2013 - Micron announced it will ship SATA SSDs with 960GB capacity priced under $600 in this quarter.

See also:- SSD prices timeline and clarification guide
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1/3 of Micron's nand flash trade sales go into SSDs
Editor:- December 20, 2012 - Micron - today in a conference call - said that SSD shipments had grown 20% compared to the previous quarter.

SSDs are 17% of Micron's nand business and the company estimates that 35% of the nand flash it supplies to trade customers end up in SSDs.

MLC was about 80% to 85% of nand flash wafer production with SLC and TLC making up the rest.
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adaptive R/W flash care IP for SSDs
What is it? Who does it?
This will be a disruptive transition.
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Micron sources holdup technology for NVDIMMs
Editor:- November 14, 2012 - Micron has signed an agreement with AgigA Tech to collaborate to develop and offer nonvolatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products using AgigA's PowerGEM (sudden power loss controller and holdup modules).
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Dell selects Micron's hot-swap 2.5" PCIe SSD
Editor:- March 6, 2012 - Micron today announced that it has developed a 2.5" form factor, hot swappable, PCIe SSD.

The new solution has been selected as a key storage device in Dell's PowerEdge 12th generation servers.

Editor's comments:- this is a natural progression - from the pioneering work last year by SANRAD (the first company to ship front removable PCIe SSDs) and OCZ (the first company to demonstrate 3.5" PCIe SSDs).

In a recent article - are you designing a new PCIe SSD? - I discussed some of the new storage architectural concepts which are being enabled by new PCIe chips from PLX - in the area of fault tolerance and PCIe enabled SANs.
pcie  SSDs - click to read article So there are a lot more changes in the PCIe SSD product pipeline. 2.5" will be an additional form factor for PCIe SSDs - and won't replace the traditional card / module form factor.
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Where are we now with SSD software?
the New Business Case for SSD ASAPs
How fast can your SSD run backwards?
the Problem with Write IOPS - in flash SSDs
Where does all the money go? (inside SSDs)
Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design
How will 2.5 inch PCIe express SSDs change things?
Why can't SSD's true believers agree about architecture?
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Micron buys SSD PCIe integration IP
Editor:- January 20, 2012 - Micron today announced it has acquired the assets of UK based Virtensys which marketed rackmount SSDs stuffed with Micron's PCIe SSDs and supported by a patented multi-server sharing virtualization interface.

Editor's comments:- if buying an SSD software company was a good idea for leading PCIe SSD makers Fusion-io and OCZ - then Micron has to follow suit or get out of the game.

Chipmakers generally dislike buying "systems" software companies - because they don't understand systems and risk alienating their oem customers. But Micron's reputation won't be dented if they can't leverage the Virtensys software.
image shows software factory - click to see storage software directory Everyone knows how hard it is to get real value out of a software acquisition. And in the next few weeks more people will take another look at Micron's Micron's SSD pages. So it's paid for itself already.
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Micron and Samsung launch new high density memory group
Editor:- October 7, 2011 - Samsung and Micron have launched a new industry initiative - the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium - which will standardize a new module architecture for memory chips - enabling greater density, faster bandwidth and lower power.

"HMC is unlike anything currently on the radar," said Robert Feurle, Micron's VP for DRAM Marketing. "HMC brings a new level of capability to memory that provides exponential performance and efficiency gains that will redefine the future of memory."

Editor's comments:- HMC may enable SSD designers to pack 10x more RAM capacity into the same space with upto 15x the bandwidth, while using 1/3 the power due to its integrated power management plane.

The same technology will enable denser flash SSDs too - if flash is still around in 3 years' time and hasn't been sucked into the obsolete market slime pit by the lurking nv demons which have been shadowing flash for the past 10 years and been waiting for each "next generation" to stumble and be the last.
click to read the article -  reaching for the petabyte SSD The power management architecture integrated in HMC and the density scaling it allows for packing memory chips (without heat build-up) are key technology enablers which were listed as some of the problems the SSD industry needed to solve in my 2010 article - this way to the Petabyte SSD.
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